Israel’s Three Seaports Paralyzed by General Strike of 4500 Workers

Israel’s three seaports were paralyzed today by a general strike of 4500 workers. It was the first time in the country’s history that Haifa. Ashdod and Eilat were shut down at the same time. The walk-out comes at the peak of Israel’s citrus export season. The Citrus Marketing Board has ordered a suspension of picking to prevent the spoilage of fruit on the strikebound docks.

The Ports Authority has appealed to the Haifa Labor Court for a temporary injunction to get the strikers back to work. The court will decide tomorrow after hearing the port workers’ case. The latter are demanding an IL 600 per month raise over and above wage agreements that were signed only five months ago, Minister-Without-Portfolio Gideon Hausner has urged the Cabinet to call a special session on the port strike but no decision was taken.

Meanwhile, the government’s hopes to hold the line on wages–and curb inflation–during the pre-election period appeared to be crumbling. Histadrut decided yesterday to grant 4-5 percent salary increases to the employees of its various companies.

The measure, criticized by the company managers, was seen as an attempt to maintain labor peace among increasingly restive industrial workers. Histadrut apparently is trying to set an example for private industries to raise wages but so far the private sector has refused. A new strike threat is hanging over the Bank Leumi, Israel’s largest bank, whose cashiers and accountants staged a two-day strike last week in support of higher wages.

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